Looking for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th wife? There’s an app for that… in Indonesia. A new mobile dating app designed to help married Muslim men find additional wives using their smartphones. The new polygamy dating app has faced heavy criticism in Indonesia.
AyoPoligami (“Let’s Do Polygamy“), which is available for Android on Google Play, acts as a matchmaking service for married men and single women. The product claims to “bring together male users with women who are willing to make big families“.
AyoPoligami functions in a very similar manner to the popular dating/hook-up app Tinder, but it also enables users to befriend and seek advice from other polygamists.
According to app developer Lindu Pranayama, when men go to regular dating sites “they don’t see options for polygamy. They don’t see options for finding second, third or fourth wives“. AyoPoligami was designed to provide such a service and Mr. Pranayama believes the app satisfies a growing niche.
However, after reaching 10,000 users within a few days of its launch, his team had to close membership registration due to a large number of suspected fake accounts. It was clear that some men were providing false information and using the service to meet women without consulting their spouse.
The app now imposes stricter regulations for signing up, meaning that users must provide their national ID card number, legal marital status and a letter of permission from their current wife(s).
According to traditional Islamic doctrine, Muslim men are permitted to have up to four separate wives. In Indonesia, as long as permission is granted in a court of law and the first wife formally agrees, a man may marry up to three more times.
Indonesia also has the world’s largest Muslim population. A 2011 Pew Research Center report revealed that approximately 205 million people practice Islam, which is around 88 percent of the country’s total population.
Although polygamy is legal, the majority of men refuse to marry more than once and the tradition is largely frowned upon by most women.
Indonesian Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights activist Zakia Tunisa described the app as “upsetting and shocking“. “Polygamy was prevalent even before the app but it now encourages polygamy to be accepted in society and maybe even compels women to accept it,” she said.
I spoke with some of the locals in Denpasar to see how they felt about the controversial new service.
Ana, a 32-year-old health spa manager, told me: “I’m a Christian, so I don’t agree with the app. It should not be allowed in Indonesia. I think Buddhist men and women do not like it either.”
I asked several Muslim women in their twenties what they thought of AyoPoligamy. They all responded negatively.
“Having many wives is an old custom now and you mainly find it with older men in the small or poor villages, not in the big cities,” said Farah, a 29-year-old hotel receptionist from Jakarta.
“I think it is being used by older men who want to find a young girlfriend and by younger men who are not happy about their wife. It is more like a kind of secret dating service than for looking for more wives,” according to 22-year-old Nadya, a student at Udayana University.
“I know about it but I don’t know anyone who uses it. I think some men are cheating on their wives using dating apps,” said Anita, a 29-year-old housewife living in Kuta.
When I showed the smartphone service to Arif, a 36-year-old security guard, he said: “I don’t think an Indonesian woman will be happy if her husband has another wife or girlfriend. It is not common anymore. I don’t think many people here will use that app.”
Adultery is legal in Indonesia, except in Aceh Province which adopts statutes based on Sharia law. However, Islamic campaigners have been petitioning to change the criminal code and outlaw marital infidelity across the country since July last year.
In other majority-Muslim countries that follow Islamic law, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, lengthy sentences and even the death penalty can be applied for “zina” (“fornication outside of marriage”). The vast majority of those prosecuted are women.